Many times, people take advantage of one’s kindness. Often it becomes impossible to bear such acts of people and show kindness to them. I feel like kicking them sometimes and regret being too kind to them, thereby giving them opportunities to harm me. How should I deal with such instances or people, especially if they are close relatives and you cannot keep too much distance from them? Kindly advise.

—SS, India


Dear Friend,

We have two points here to consider: 1) any gift or service given with attachment to be thanked or recognized is already tainted with ego and guarantees disappointing results. 2) One should use wisdom when acting to help others. Those, who perhaps merely rajasic or tamasic, will trample on one’s kindnesses are like ‘throwing pearls unto swine!’ Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita puts it this way: “It is better to die in performance of one’s own duty than to succeed in fulfilling the duty of another.”

So may I suggest that when contemplating helping another person you prepare yourself mentally to help without attachment. To do this, consider what it would be like if your help were SO misunderstood as to be rejected or criticized! If you do not have the level of non-attachment that is centered in your own sincerity, then perhaps you should reconsider!

At the same time, when contemplating helping another person consider whether your help to them is truly YOUR dharma or is, instead, something that person (or some other person) needs to do (rather than you). “Enabling” is a concept wherein our helping someone only reinforces that person’s need for help and effectively robs them of the compelling necessity and self-initiative to help themselves.

In any case, so long as your feelings are hurt and you become angry when your help is rejected or not appreciated, you can be sure that it is something YOU need to work on. You CANNOT expect to change the behavior or attitude of other people.

There is a story from India of a sadhu sitting by the banks of a river. He sees a scorpion has fallen off a branch into the river and is about to drown. The sadhu reaches out and picks up the scorpion to place the scorpion on the riverbank. As he does so, the scorpion bites the sadhu! Well, this little scene repeats itself several times, the sadhu willingly saving the scorpion and the scorpion ungratefully biting him. A passerby observing this scene finally asks the sadhu “Why do you keep rescuing the scorpion, only to be bitten each time?” The sadhu’s simple reply: “It is my nature to help; it is the scorpion’s nature to bite.” Few of us have this level of self-giving but do consider the principle behind this story and the sadhu’s self-sacrifice.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Seattle WA USA